Tens of thousands of spectators should experience two special biathlon weeks in Oberhof. A medal in the mixed relay would be the perfect start. The pressure before the home World Cup is enormous, especially for one.
On the day before the start of the World Cup, the helpers shoveled the masses of snow from the stands in the sunshine, while the training shots were clearly audible in the still deserted biathlon arena.
Just thinking about thousands of German fans in the stands and the goosebumps atmosphere in Oberhof made Olympic champion Denise Herrmann-Wick go into raptures. “Home World Cup – it’s going to be a huge thing for all of Germany,” said the country’s best ski hunter.
Before the start on Wednesday (2.45 p.m. / ZDF and Eurosport) with the mixed relay, the expectations of the hosts are huge. “It’s a different kind of pressure. I think you just have to handle it well, then that’ll be fine,” said Vanessa Voigt, who will lead the German quartet as the starting runner. The German Ski Association did not want to inform about the rest of the squad until late Tuesday afternoon. “We did everything to get into the World Cup well,” said Herrmann-Wick and wished for a similar ambience in Thuringia as last summer at the European Championships for summer athletes in Munich. “That was great. It would be cool if we could do it.”
No medal requirement
Of course, the ex-world champion knows that German successes are essential. A medal would be the perfect start to nine days of competition with a total of twelve decisions. But the hosts don’t want to count precious metals at the first World Cup in their own country for eleven years. “We didn’t set a medal target,” said national coach Mark Kirchner, who remains true to his line in his home country. Because the World Cup is not that special. “It’s done in a special way, but I push that away,” said Kirchner: “The ten kilometers are still ten kilometers long at the end. We’re well advised not to hang up our backpacks ourselves.”
Because others are already doing it – and are hoping for festivals similar to those in Ruhpolding in 2012 or in Oberhof in 2004. The previous world title fights in Germany attracted a total of more than 200,000 fans, now it should be over 150,000. Up to 27,500 every day, plus millions in front of the TV sets. The entire sports facility was extensively modernized for 40 million euros. “If there are 20,000 to 25,000 people who are primarily cheering us on, that can really push us,” said sporting director Felix Bitterling: “If we’re good there, we can trigger a small biathlon boom. That’s our goal. We’ll do it fight and give everything.”
But the competition is enormous. The times of German serial victories like those of Magdalena Neuner or Laura Dahlmeier are long gone. Among the women there is a wide world class, in which the 34-year-old Saxon Herrmann-Wick is one of the favorites in every race and the Thuringian Vanessa Voigt could cause surprises. For the men, Johannes Thingnes Bö is the gold favorite at every start in the 1600-inhabitant community and should become the big star on the Rennsteig. Overall, it is the Norwegians who have to be beaten for the German hopeful Benedikt Doll and Co.
“People are just waiting for me to fail and they will say it’s the greatest when it happens,” said Norwegian Bö, who won eleven of 14 races this season. As the first male ski hunter, he could win seven World Championship medals in seven races in Oberhof, with women, Marte Olsbu Röiseland already succeeded in 2020 in Antholz. The Norwegian, who is married to Germany women’s assistant coach Sverre Olsbu Röiseland, could also become a medal scoop again.
“Turning pressure into something positive”
“If you’re at peace with yourself, you can convert pressure into something positive,” said Herrmann-Wick meanwhile: “We want a cool atmosphere, that can ensure that athletes grow beyond themselves.” Only if that happens will it be a sportingly successful World Cup for the hosts. At the last 2021 on the Slovenian Pokljuka there were a lot of top ten placements, but only individual silver for the already retired Arnd Peiffer and relay silver for the women.
“I believe that there is an opportunity in every race and that our athletes can get involved. You have to see whether it’s enough for a medal,” Peiffer told dpa before the start of the World Cup. The 35-year-old Olympic champion from 2018 is on site as an expert for ARD, just like double Olympic champion Dahlmeier for ZDF. The 29-year-old Bavarian believes primarily in relay medals: “I have the feeling that a lot is possible there.”
Lots of fans and lots of snow
The fans should also help. After two years of ghost events without spectators due to the corona pandemic, they are returning to the grandstands in Oberhof. Already at the World Cup home game in Ruhpolding in January there was a taste of the difference they can make and pushed the Germans forward. Now it will be even louder and more emotional. “It will be special,” said Herrmann-Wick.
The routes in the Thuringian Forest are ready for the highlight of the season. While there was hardly any snow after the turn of the year and the temperatures were far too high, the Arena am Rennsteig is covered in deep snow and the cross-country trails are perfectly groomed. And even if it should get warmer in the second week of the World Cup, as predicted, there are still no problems. The depots are filled with almost 40,000 cubic meters of artificial snow.
I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.